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Mr. In Control vs. Mr. Entertainment

The kids are smitten with the nine-year-old daughter of my mom's next door neighbor, which has introduced us to the phenomenon of what life will be like when they're in high school. Her back yard is not fenced, and neither is my mom's, so the first time they met, and after the obligatory shyness wore off and their natural competition rose to the surface, the flirtation of choice was racing across the length of Her back yard. Quinn always loses when it's a race based only on speed, which means two things: Quinn gets frustrated and moves on to something else, and Bryce demands a race every. single. time. he sees Her.

Last night all the families were out before fireworks started, and Bryce used his trusty "let's race" line to get Her attention. Cue the same rules, the kids in the same line-up, and the same four seconds of all-out sprinting followed by Quinn's desperate attempts to win for once by heading for the finish line before reaching the agreed upon mid-point of the far fence, and Bryce's (legitimate but screechy) accusations of cheating (even though Quinn still never wins). Party music was playing on the back porch when all the kids came up for a drink, though, and She started to dance, which led to Quinn joining Her with his signature hilarious lip-syncing, finger-pointing, disco party moves in perfect rhythm to whatever was playing. Bryce got his drink and said to Her, "let's go race again," but as he ran off, She hesitated and said, "I want to dance, I don't want to race." Bryce didn't even know what to make of this. He had no desire to dance, and no intention of dancing. (I can totally relate; in fact, this is probably a medical condition he inherited from me, much like his desire for control, frustratingly photographic memory, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.) He tried to wait patiently while She and Quinn jammed through all the classics streaming from the digital cable party channel. The entire bottom half of Quinn's head was soaked with sweat and he was probably delirious with fatigue and dehydration, but nothing was going to take this victory away from him. I tried to encourage Bryce to join them, but he just ignored me. He tried a different tact, walked up to Her mid-shuffle and said, "let's play climb the mountain on the rocks over there!" to no avail. She told him to dance too, but he shook his head and I could see his mind racing for something to offer Her that would be more compelling than dancing, and dancing with Quinn of all people! Quinn was lapping it up, performing for the neighbor family across Her back yard, lip syncing to songs he didn't know and pointing frantically, occasionally changing up his points for some air guitar when the songs allowed for such genius.

Finally, She was ready to take a break from dancing and agreed to humor Bryce's constant requests to play a game, any game, any activity involving role playing that might somehow resemble video game life where he could feel in control, directing the activities of all the players and declare the winner according to his pre-determined set of logical rules. Bryce seemed to relax again under these circumstances, although still perplexed by the whole thing: the dancing, ... who can tolerate all that out-of-control, purposeless movement with no defined end in mind? Watching the three of them play and the boys compete for Her attention and approval in whatever way they could, I said, "the teenage years are going to be tough with those two." "Yeah," said my stepdad, " 'Hey Quinn, find out if she likes me.' '...Well, Bryce, I've been out with her four times now, but I just can't tell.' "

And just think: before this set of exchanges, all I was worried about for the evening was firework safety.